tv PBS News Hour PBS April 30, 2013 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: president obama answered questions from reporters today on topics from syria and the boston bombings to the budget and his own political clout with congress. good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the newshour tonight, we examine the president's renewed pledge to close the guantanamo detention facility once and for all. >> woodruff: plus, we look at the relationship between the white house and congress, and what that means for spending cuts, immigration, and more. >> ifill: then, we update the investigation into the boston bombings with the latest information on whether the two suspects had help. >> woodruff: betty ann bowser reports on the perils of prescription drug abuse and the challenges of combating it.
>> they're not getting it from drug dealer, they're to the getting off the internet. they're not purchasing it from down the street. they're getting from their homes. >> ifill: and jeffrey brown explores moves by five states to restrict access to abortion services. >> most americans have a common sense approach to abortion where they want parental consent-- consent, informed consent. americans believe they can make these personal decisions. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
>> and by b.p./ >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: president obama marked the first 100 days of his second term today, using a news conference to demand action on his agenda, from guantanamo to guns. newshour correspondent kwame holman begins our coverage. >> do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this congress? >> if you put it that way, jonathan, maybe i should just pack up and go home. golly.
>> reporter: president obama joked and jabbed in the white house briefing room as he pressed the point that he's no lame duck and that he'll keep pushing his priority. >> we understand that we're in a divided government right now. republicans control the house of representatives. in the senate this habit of requiring 60 votes for even the most modest piece of legislation has gummed up the works there. despite that, i'm actually confident that there are a range of things we'll be able to get done. >> reporter: for instance he said he believes congress will approve sweeping immigration reform. and he insisted he hasn't given up on closing the prison at guantanamo, cuba, as he vowed to do in his first presidential campaign. >> i think it is critical for us to understand that guantanamo is not necessary to keep america safe. it is expensive. it is inefficient.
it hurts us in terms of our international standings. it lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. it is a recruitment tool for extremists. it needs to be closed. >> reporter: congress has balancinged at transferring detainees to the mainland u.s. but more than half of the 166 captives now are waging a hunger strike for better conditions and an end to years of legal limbo. >> i don't want these individuals to die. obviously the pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. but i think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this. why are we doing this? i'm going to go back at this. i've asked my team to review everything that's currently being done in guantanamo. everything that we can do administratively and i'm going to reengage with congress to try to make the case that this is not
something that is in the best interests of the american people. >> reporter: likewise, the president said it's not in the country's best interest to keep the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. >> it slowed our growth. it's resulting in people being thrown out of work. and it's hurting folks all across the country. and the fact that congress responded to the short-term problem of flight delays by giving us the option of shipping monies that's designed to repair and improve airports over the long-term to fix the short-term problem, well that's not a solution. >> reporter: and that was a recurring theme, mr. obama arguing that the failure to address guantanamo or budget problems or gun violence lies squarely on congress's doorstep as he told abc new's jonathan carl. >> jonathan, you seem to
suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. that's their job. >> reporter: by the same token the president accused republicans in congress and state houses of obstructing his health-care reform law. he acknowledged some glitches but said they don't affect most people. >> despite all the hue and cry and sky is falling predictions about this stuff, if you have already gotthelf insurance, then that part of obamacare that affects you, it's pretty much already in place. and that's about 85% of the country. what is left to be implemented is those provisions to help the 10 to 15% of the american public that is unlucky enough that they don't have health insurance. >> reporter: while much of the 48 minute white house news conference dealt with
domestic policy and tensions with congress, the questions also turned abroad. the main focus, the ongoing conflict in syria and signs that bash ar al-assad may have used chemical weapons against the rebels. president obama indicated he's ready to consider military options if the case is proved. >> what we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of syria. but we don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them. we don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened. >> reporter: in short, he said the american people and the world expect him to make sure he's got the facts before acting. >> if we end up rushing to judgement without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in the position where we can't mobilize the international community to support what we do. there may be objections even
among some people in the region who are sympathetic with the opposition if we take action so it's important for us to do this in a prudent way. >> reporter: late today "the washington post" reported the president now is preparing to send lethal weaponry to the syrian rebels. the account said a final decision is likely within weeks. as for another security threat, the boston bombings, the president says so far it appears the department of homeland security and the fbi did their jobs in the months leading to the attacks. >> the fbi investigated that older brother. it's not as if the fbi did nothing. they not only investigated the older brother, they interviewed the older brother. they concluded that there were no signs that he was engaging in extremist activity. so that much we know. >> reporter: still the president promised a thorough review of whether sensitive intelligence was missed.
>> woodruff: the president made >> ifill: the president made one straightforward pledge today, to keep the promise he made before he was elected to shut down the detention center at guantanamo bay. but is that even possible? charlie savage has been covering the issue for the "new york times." president said that keeping guantanamo open is not necessary to keep the country safe. what does he base that on? >> well, president obama's plan for closing guantanamo involves bringing the detainees there who can't be sent home because they're deemed too dangerous to release or because they are from countries where security conditions are poor, taking those detainees and bringing them to another prison inside the united states. his original plan which congress blocked was to use an empty maximum security prison in illinois to amp up its security further to supermax conditions. and his motion there is we have terrorist all over the country, the supermax prisons in particular, and that's fine. it's not like that is actually a threat to national security. so we can still detainee in
wartime detention, is his view, without having to necessarily do it at guantanamo where things are so much more expensive and where there is this symbolic public relations problem that causes all sorts of foreign policy problems for the country. >> ifill: first of all how many detainees are we talking about here? >> there are currently 166 detainees remaining at guantanamo. that's down from 240 when he took office, and about 800 total whom the bush administration brought there. president obama has not brought anyone to guantanamo. >> ifill: and when you mention at the expense and the president mentioned the expense, what are we talk approximating about? >> it's more expensive to build anything there. it's more-- because it is so far away, you have to barge things in around cuba. it's more expensive to operate anything there. and currently the facilities there are sort of falling apart. the south comm which overseas gain tan to-- guantanamo has a pending request for $200 million in new construction to replace deteriorate facilities which it says
needs to be done right now. this would effectively build permanent structures to replace what had been temporary guard baracks and camps and so forth set up over ten years ago. >> ifill: the president also made another claim today, assertion. he said that the presence of guantanamo makes if a recruitment tool for extremists. is there any evidence to back that up? >> well, certainly intelligence agencies have occasionally picked up propaganda or you see radical muslim clerics and so forth mentioning guantanamo in a list of grievances. i would say in the current era probably drone strikes occupy the number one spot on that list. but there's also this continuing problem involving the low level detainees at guantanamo. not the high level guys that are never going to get out like khalid sheikh mohammed. we're talking about half the detainee population, 86 have been cleared unanimously by national security agencies for more than three years to be released if security conditions have been met.
and the outward flow of those detainees has dried up for several years. that's what is leading to this turmoil and unrest at guantanamo right now. and i think that's currently the issue that is attracting the greatest blowback globally including from the-- recently from the united nations high commissioner for human rights. >> ifill: and part of blowback, part of the upheaval there right now has to do with this hunger strike which is under way. is this what has forced the president to get tough on this issue again? or was this, is this what the administration has been saying quietly all along? >> well, the administration's stated policy has been since obama took office in 2009 that it wants to close guantanamo. but in the face of congressional opposition to its plan to bring the detainees into the united states, and later some restrictions imposed by congress on transferring them elsewhere to countries with troubled security conditions, that stated policy has been basically stated only. there has been very little effort by the administration for the past several years
to actually do anything about it. it's been sitting on its hands, essentially, waiting for the political winds to shift again. even after congress granted it in 2012 the power to issue case by case waivers to those transfer restrictions to send people back to places like yemen. the administration has not exercised that authority once. and earlier this year it transferred away the high level state department diplomat whose job it was to negotiate detainee transfers. and it did not replace him. and so it is against that backdrop of ossification that the turmoil in guantanamo which for the first years of his presidency have been quite quiet has recently blown up. the detainees have grown desperate that they are never to go home, even the ones long since designated for potential release. they think the world has forgotten about them. and both the military and lawyers for detainees agree that that sense of growing hopelessness is the underlying condition that is driving this hunger strike and larger protest.
>> ifill: so why is the president's statement today any different from the assertions the administration has made before? is there anything he can now do administratively in the face of congressional opposition? >> well, that's what is sort of interesting about this. of course he made this because someone asked him. it is not like he went out and chose to say something about guantanamo when he has been quiet about the topic for quite a long time. so he's saying, yes, in addition to trying to get congress to bugd-- budget, he has ordered a review of what could be done administratively and both republicans in congress and civil libertarian groups on the other side are saying there are things he could have already been doing for some time. he could have been issuing or directing the secretary of defense to issue these waivers on's case-by-case basis to get some of the low level detainees who have been jammed up, out. he could appoint a high level person in the white house with the authority to resolve interagency disputes that have slowed down certain policies like the creation of parole boards. they missed a deadline over
a year he had set up to have parole hearings for detainees who are deemed too dangerous to release. if they are still too dangerous, nothing has happened because of interagency dispute no one has resolved that dispute. and the ban on transfers to yemen is to the something congress imposed, it's something that president obama himself created a year earlier after the attempted underwear bombing of that detroit bound airliner on christmas in 2009. that's where 56 of the 86 detainees long since approved for congressional approval are from yemen. and it is mr. obama's own self-imposed ban on any transfers to that country which is primarily kept them locked up. >> ifill: still in a tough position. charlie savage of "the new york times", thank you so much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: and you can watch all of mr. obama's press conference on our web site. and still to come on the newshour, the political challenges ahead for the president and congress; an update on the investigation into
the boston bombings; the problem of prescription drug abuse; and a debate about recent moves to restrict abortions in the states. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. will food and drug administration approved over its counter sales of the morning after birth pill for girls 15 and old. before now it was only able to those 17 and over. earler-- earlier the judge ordered the age restrictions be lifted but the fda said it was in the works before the judge's order. three nato service members were killed in a roadside bombing in southern afghanistan today. it came on the third day of the taliban's spring offensive. the militants have vowed to target foreign military bases and diplomatic areas and to use "insider attacks" by afghan soldiers and police to kill nato troops. nato did not identify the nationalities of those killed today. in libya, a confrontation escalated as militiamen surrounded the justice ministry in the capital city, tripoli. it's the third day of trouble, as armed groups test the government's political transition. gunmen stood guard today beside
trucks mounted with anti- aircraft guns. roads around the justice ministry were sealed off, the building was closed, and visitors were turned away. the militias are trying to force out members of moammar gadhafi's regime who are still in government posts. the parliament of cyprus narrowly passed a multibillion- dollar bailout plan today, avoiding national bankruptcy. the government struck the deal with its euro partners and the international monetary fund last week. officials had warned that without the agreement, the country faced economic collapse and possible withdrawal from the euro system. the deal has angered many cypriots by forcing large bank depositors to take major losses on their savings. the u.s. economy is giving off more signals of growth. consumer confidence rose in april, after falling in march. the conference board, a private research group, says hiring and pay raises helped. and the standard & poors/case- schiller index showed home prices jumped more than 9% in february. that's the biggest increase in nearly seven years. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average gained 21 points to close well over 14,839.
the nasdaq rose more than 21 points to close above 3328. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: we continue our coverage of the president's news conference today with a look at his relationship with congress. joining me now are dan balz, chief correspondent with the "washington post." and glenn thrush. he covers the white house for politico. welcome. to you both. so the president said, we heard him say at the news conference the rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated when jonathan karl of abc asked him does he still have the juice to get the rest of his agenda through congress. dan, does he have the juice? >> well, he has some juice. but we've seen throughout his presidency, particularly after the 2010 elections, how difficult it is for him to get the congress to go along with the things he wants to do. and we thought perhaps after the re-election he would have a little bit more strength to do that. but very quickly we fell back into the same divisions. and it's hard for him to overcome that.
>> woodruff: why? why doesn't he have what people thought after the elections that people might have. >>it just really striking to me the difference five months make. you know, right after the election people around the president were saying this is a pan date. this is a ratification of everything that he was trying to do. but i think it's been a confluence of a bunch of different circumstances. i think a lot of this has to do with the predicate that the president himself established in the first four years. he does not have great relationships on the hill with democrats or republicans. and at this point in time he needs to have leverage up on the hill and he just can't rely on relationships. >> woodruff: so is it a matter, dan, of just not cult nature-- cultivating relationships on the hill? >> well, that is part of it, as glenn says he's fever been a schmoozer on capitol hill. but it's much more difficult to operate on capitol hill today than it used to be for any president there are sometimes analogies made to lyndon johnson and he should be more like lincoln-- lyndon johnson, you know, breaking arms and
legs and twisting everybody. the fact is that doesn't work the way it used to. this is a different time. the congress is different. the country is so divided, red and blue that it's just hard for any chief executive to operate that way. and as we've seen for congressional leaders to get their way sometimes. >> woodruff: glenn, we heard the president say today, he said it's not my job to get members of congress to behave. he said it's their job because they're elected to do what is right for the american people. he said and they ought to be thinking about five, ten, 15 years from now and not right now. is he right about that? does he have a point? >> well, maybe the juice we're talking about needs to be in the form of a cattle product. i think he is-- he's partially right about that. i think, you know, to a certain extent as dan said, the president is facing this incredible division. he has come up, however, with a fairly reasonable strategy which is to approach the senate and attempt to make these deals through the senate.
i think on the immigration bill in particular. he can establish a conduit and put more pressure on the house republicans. in terms of legacy, that particular argument hasn't worked so far. >> woodruff: what about that, dan? >> well, i think that's right. i think in some way was we have seen since the election is a two-prong strategy which is slightly different than what he did in 2011. i think there is still an effort working the inside. and as glenn says mostly through the senate, hoping to break through with some republican senators who are certainly frustrated by the inability of congress to do some things. but there is a more aggressive outside strategy that he has employed since the election. and in a sense you could say there is a legislative strategy of working the inside. and there is a political strategy on the outside which in a sense is aimed at, if we don't get those things we are still going to benefit politically, perhaps in 2014. >> woodruff: so when he say, i mean at one point, he said i can't force republicans to embrace common sense solutions.
he said they are going to have to say we want to do the right thing. i mean should he be more talented in some way in getting congress to do what he wants? >> i mean that isn't the roots of his political success. in 2008 he didn't just run against congress. he ran against washington. and his entire mind-set has been about, until now, been about changing the larger political climate so that people will move in his direction. i think in the middle, in the early part of the summer in may starting in may, we're going to see some ofa action. >> woodruff: this is the outside group. >> the outside group. we're going to start seeing some action. i think that may have a limited impact. but as dan said, i think he really does need to continue to improve the inside game here. >> the challenge that he's going to face, the guns vote while certainly a setback is in some ways not a surprise. nobody's wanted it deal with the gun issue for a long time.
he sees the opportunity after newtown. but was unable to be successful. they are putting so much now into immigration and they're optimistic that in the end%m6 they're going to get something on immigration. i think that's still a big question mark particularly because of where the house may or may not be on that issue. the budget issue is one in which they're still is no evidence that there is grounds for a real breakthrough. and i think that's one if you look at the big frustrations that he may face by the end of this year, that could be it. >> woodruff: do you agree with dan on immigration? that prospects look good? >> i think prospects on immigration look good again but then there is the possibility that this thing could blow up again. you've got folks in the house who are saying that they are a no go on this. >> woodruff: on immigration. >> on immigration. people who are challenging marco lubio, you know jim demint, the former senator from north carolina now head of the enterprise institute is saying opposition. so that may not be a smooth
path. >> woodruff: so that is not a slam-dunk. and what about bujt. the president put it today, he said maybe we can fix the sequester problem by going for a bigger-- a bigger deal. what does that look like? >> well, i think to a certain extent, and i've noticed this in the last couple of days. and maybe dan has as well. there's a certain bitterness creeping into the way that the white house are viewing these fights. i think the gun battle for them was a really difficult experience. i think they believe that the moral force of having the newtown families up on the hill was going to change hearts and minds. i also feel that they thought the sequester was going to get people in line. that has not happened. and i think there is a sense now, i think you kind of saw it in the president's demeanor at this press conference that things are going wrong. and they're not exactly sure how to deal with it. >> woodruff: is that kind of attitude, dan, if that is what they are thinking and feeling, is that helpful, harmful? >> well, it's not helpful to be overly pessimistic if you
are the president. you have to believe you're going to be able to get some of these things done. i think they feel that right now there's a story line that has kind of developed because of the guns vote and because of this change in the faa funding, that he's on the defensive and can't get his way. i think their feeling is it's a nice story for the press to focus on but they've got bigger fish they're going to try to fry. but i do think that there is a question about what their ambitions are on the budget at this point. i'm not convinced that they are as ambitious in their expectations as they might have been before. so we could get some solution to the budget issue. but every piece of history over the last several years tells us that in the end we do a minimal deal, not a maximum deal. >> woodruff: just a final quick question about health-care reform, implementing health-care reform. that came up today. the president said he's confident they can work that through. what do you see on that? >> well, we know from our conversations with democrats in the states that there is
an apprehension that this is going to impact them in the midterms. and we saw max baucus the other day call this thing a train wreck, so i think it is very much an open question how they deal with it. >> the president was trying to say for most of the country this is to the going to be a problem. but we know there are a lot of issues for the implementation of that part of it which still has to come. >> woodruff: this is for something that has already passed. >> right. >> woodruff: just a matter of getting it implemented. dan balz, glenn thrush, thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: we turn to the investigation into the boston bombings, and to ray suarez, who has the latest. >> suarez: it's been just over two weeks since the attacks and investigators are pursuing several lines of inquiry both here and abroad. those include, according to several news organizations, widening the investigation to see if others may have helped the suspects before or after the bombings, and are continuing to speak with the widow of the 26- year-old suspect who was killed, tamerlan tsarnaev.
and as the president said at his news conference, the director of national intelligence will oversee a review of how 17 agencies handled earlier tips and questions about the older brother. for the latest, we turn to evan perez, who is covering the case for the "wall street journal." evan, first of all, it's a good remind their there are 17 agencies involved with questions like these. what are the kinds of questions that they're going to be asking themselve approximates about the last several months? >> well, you know, this happens after every one of these types of events. and i think it's sort of a natural response that happens, especially from the white house. obviously something went wrong here. two bombs exploded and people died. so they want to know if there is anything else they could have done. we know, for instance, that the russian security agency in 2011 expressed some concern about tamerlan tsarnaev and his mother. and we know those concerns were sent over to the fbe and to the cia.
the fb, looked at it, investigated for about three months. didn't find enough. asked the russians for more information. they never got any. so right now i think the president spoke about there today was, you know, i'm not sure that we can say a ball was dropped per se. >> suzanne: he defended the fbi. >> he defended the fbi and said they did what they could based on the authorities they have under the law. the russians didn't provide further information when they were asked. it's only now that they have come forward and said well, we had some wiretaps that had her speaking with some suspicious people, and him, and his mother tamerlan and his mother discussing very, in very broad terms, the concept of jihad-- jihad. so now we know a lot more. perhaps the fbi could have done more then. but that's hindsight. >> suzanne: meanwhile the criminal investigation continues. and now they're looking more closely at tamerlan tsarnaev's widow. what do we know about her. >> well, we know that the
fbi has been wanting to talk to her for, you know, face-to-face for several days here since the bombings or since they identified tamerlan and dzhokhar. so they have been wanting and trying to negotiate with her lawyers to a, get more time to talk to her. and also to get some dna samples. as we reported yesterday, the fbi found some female dna on remnants of the bomb and so they want to know whether, you know, basically cross hafer the list if that's the case, that she had nothing to do with it. she basically has said, you know, that she had nothing, she was completely shocked about the events. and i think what they want to know is, you know, the key period between the bombings on monday april 15th and friday, what was going on then. where was tamerlan. they know a lot more about dzhokhar because he was at a dorm. and he was in college. and he's in and out. and there's more recordings
of what he was doing. tamerlan is a little bit more of a mystery and i think she might be able to shed some light on that. >> suzanne: the net seems to be widening to up to a dozen more people who may have some identify about the whereabouts of this. >> right there are plenty of associates i think the fbi is very interested in, some more than others. there are some concern that perhaps some of these folks might have helped get rid of evidence, unwittingly, perhaps not on purpose but a brother might have asked one of them to get rid of some materials son and on. and so the fbi has been essentially looking into that. they've been doing a lot of searches. one of the big problems with the case right now is trying to figure out where they put the bombs together. it's still somewhat of a mystery. they did searches of the home, the brothers shared in cambridge and found no residue. and so these are messy things to put together. these are black powder bombs. so it's very unusual for you
not to be able to find it you would have to be really good at cleaning up to be able to erase all proof of this. so that's something that i think they hope these folks can help them figure out. >> suzanne: during this time more attention has been focused on the journey that zubeidat tsarnaev, tamerlan and dzhokhar's mother has taken during these years. we see a couple of years ago a woman in stylish clothes, stylish hair styles. and now a woman in black with her head covered, a very different kind of person. >> well, yeah. you know, her religious turn store of mirrors her sons. and it appears what happened is you know after a few years here in the united states, the family was struggling. the boys are beginning to party. they're starting to enjoy american life. and she becomes worried. and she turns to religion as sort of a way to bring them back it happens a lot with immigrant families. an i think she was trying to do that.
reused religion. and it looks like, i believe from what we can see right now, she is key to the beginning of his religious turn. he at some point goes off in a different direction. she says that she never put him on to the path of extremism. but it's clear that she was very key, at least in the beginning, for his religious turn. >> suzanne: there's been a lot of speculation about someone named micha. who is it? have we talked to this person? and what have they said for themselves it is. >> the fbi was very mystified. this was something brought up by members of the family who, the tsarnaev family who essentially said that they were very worried that there was this mysterious armenian figure who was very key to radicallizing tamerlan. the fbi tracked done this person. he is a ukrainian armenian dissent. live-- lives in rhode island. they interviewed him, they have gotten his computer, interviewed him. at this point they believe
he had nothing to do with it. he has told in interviews that he hasn't seen tamerlan in three years. and that if indeed he knew about this, he would have tried to stop it. so i think the fbi believes him and thinks that this might just be another one of those you know blind alleys that these cases tend to generate. >> suzanne: evan, thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> woodruff: next, the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and how it can lead to dangerous consequences. several states are now trying to tackle what they see as a serious public health concern. oklahoma is one of the leading states on that front as health correspondent betty ann bowser reports. >> reporter: he was u.s. army, all-american. >> reporter: austin box seemed to have it all. he was a star linebacker for the
top ten university of oklahoma sooners. from childhood, his life was played out in the spotlight. >> this is after he caused a big stop against baylor. >> reporter: so when box died suddenly at age 22, it revealed a darker side of life few people knew about, one of pain and the consequences of taking too much pain medication. in may of 2011, just two weeks after graduation, austin box was found unresponsive. his father craig box remembers the call like it was yesterday. >> i had a phone call from the office that there was a problem with austin. he was not breathing at times and his heart stopped, and they were reviving him. that's all i knew until we got to the hospital. >> reporter: a toxicology report showed that box, number 12, had
taken a lethal combination of five different pain medications. none had been prescribed to him. box had a long history of injuries, including a bad blow to his back that ruptured a disc. >> i think that injury was very painful, and i think playing through that was painful. you had to know austin and understand that he never complained about anything-- and i mean never. >> reporter: austin's parents had no idea he was taking pain killers or where they came from. >> it was just a complete shock. it was clearly something he tried to keep from us. well, i know he did. >> reporter: while box's death was a terrible shock, it was also an ending health officials in oklahoma are too familiar with. the number one cause of overdose deaths here is misuse of prescription painkillers.
terry cline is oklahoma's commissioner of health. >> over the last ten years, about ten years, we've seen a 372% increase in the number of deaths from the misuse of prescription drugs. it's huge. >> reporter: in fact, in oklahoma more overdose deaths involve prescription painkillers than heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine combined. the people dying from painkiller abuse don't fit the profile of illegal drug users-- people like austin box. >> i think he was an all- american boy who was struggling with an all-american issue that is prevalent in communities across our country. >> reporter: nationally, annual deaths from abuse of prescription painkillers, or opioids, has quadrupled to more than 16,000 deaths. dr. thomas frieden is the director of the centers for disease control.
>> we've had a huge increase in the amount of these drugs that are prescribed. and the more that they are prescribed, the more they're abused. that's the bottom line. >> reporter: in fact, the painkiller hydrocodone, found in the popular drug vicodin, is the most prescribed drug in the united states. doctors say, taken as directed, painkillers can be a godsend for pain sufferers. but national surveys show the majority of people who misuse prescription painkillers get them not from their doctor, but from a friend. whitney box, austin's sister, believes that was true in her brother's case. >> i think he was getting them for free from people who just wanted to be in his life and live in his world. they wanted to get closer to him, wanted to get closer to all the players. >> reporter: in many cases, pills are lifted from the family medicine cabinet. >> they're not getting it from
drug dealers, they're not getting it off the internet, they're not purchasing it from somebody down the street. they're getting it right from our very homes. >> reporter: that's what wayne walker did after pain medications prescribed for a ruptured disc led him to addiction. >> when i was heavily into my addiction, i was asking people if i could use their bathroom, because i was going to go through your medicine cabinet. >> reporter: walker has been clean for over a year now. his doctor, hal vorse, who specializes in opioid addiction, says people have the mistaken sense that prescription pills are safe. >> one of the first things out of their mouths is, well, i can't see why it's a problem, because it's legal. well, you know, it doesn't matter whether you buy your drugs in a liquor store a pharmacy or on the street. you're going to end up dead at the end. you know, addiction doesn't care where you get your drugs.
>> reporter: dr. vorse says physicians don't always see signs of dependency. >> the problem is that many times doctors haven't been trained in addiction, to recognize and understand when people start abusing and they go over the line to addiction. >> when i was in medical school, the number one thing i learned was wrong, and the number one thing i learned was, if you give opiates to a patient who's in pain, they will not get addicted. completely wrong. completely wrong. but a generation of doctors, a generation of us grew up being trained that these drugs aren't risky. >> reporter: in fact, they are risky. health officials also cite a cultural shift in the acceptance of taking prescription drugs in general. >> in our society, we expect a pill to make our lives easier to manage. sometimes we take the easy way out. >> reporter: oklahoma is taking
steps to tackle abuse. the governor has proposed $16 million for treatment, public awareness, and education. the legislature has debated several bills. one, sponsored by senator rob standridge-- himself a pharmacist-- would alert doctors with an electronic red flag on patient records if they're already receiving pain killers. >> when a patient picks up a hydrocodone, for instance, pharmacists are required to send that information in immediately. what this bill does is take that data and proactively alert the physicians. >> reporter: standridge's house sponsor of the legislation, representative richard morrissette, says getting a bill passed aimed at prescription drug abuse was a political struggle. >> whether it's the pharmaceuticals, the doctors, or manufacturers, everybody has a lobbyist and a special interest trying to protect what is. and they don't want change, because they are very familiar
with what is. people are making a lot of money at this, too. when you start pushing on those nerves, you're going to get push back, and that's exactly what's happened. >> reporter: some physicians don't think legislators should tell doctors how to practice medicine. dr. daniel morris is a specialist in pain management who treats patients in advanced stages of cancer. morris says some physicians are so worried about patient abuse that they've stopped prescribing painkillers altogether. >> with all the pressure, legislative pressure, the law enforcement pressure, the press, media, it's becoming more and more difficult for physicians to offer, you know, pain medications to people who really deserve it. and you're seeing family doctors who put signs up in the waiting room: "we do not prescribe hydrocodone, we do not prescribe methadone." >> reporter: austin box's family
would like others to remember the young life destroyed by drugs. >> he was a very sensitive, caring person. he was friends with everybody. he treated everybody with respect. >> reporter: the family has started a foundation to educate doctors, patients, and policy makers, so that other families will not have to live through a similar tragedy. >> woodruff: on our health page, the top ten things the centers for disease control says you should know about prescription drug abuse. if you still have questions, send them to us and a c.d.c. official will answer them on our web site in the days ahead. >> ifill: finally tonight, the new arena for an old and fiercely fought debate over abortion. jeffrey brown has our update.
>> brown: the central battleground in the debate over abortion rights has shifted in recent years to the states. in just the past two months five states alabama, arkansas, kansas, north dakota and verge why-- virginia have approved more stringent restrictions in abortion. in north dakota the new law prohibit as bortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, could be soon as-- as soon as 6 weeks. >> north dakota leaves in the life of the unborn child and believes heartbeat is life. >> undermining the standards set out in the supreme court 1973 ruling in "roe versus wade". that decision gave women the right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, about 24 weeks it into pregnancy. speaking last friday at a planned parenthood conference, president obama took aim at measures designed to limit abortion rights. he told the crowd such policies would, quote, roll
back basic rights when it comes to women's health. >> when you read about some of these laws, you want to check the calendar. you want to make sure you are still living in 2013. 40 years after the supreme court affirmed a woman's constitutional right to privacy including the right to choose, we shouldn't have to remind people that when it comes to a woman's health, no politician should get to decides what's best for you. >> brown: the president also pledged to fight every step of the way on behalf of planned parenthood. two republicans in congress and several gop controlled state legislatures, introduced initiatives to defund the organization. meanwhile, antiabortion activists are also pointing to the trial of philadelphia doctor kermit goz dnel, speaking-- seeking to pressure lawmakers to enact stricter regulations for abortion clinics. he is facing four charges of first-degree murder related to late-term abortion procedures. the jury in that case began
its deliberations today. >> brown: so how does each side see the focus as it is shifted from washington to the states? and what's next? joined by charmaine yoest, president of americans united for life and ilyce hough, newly installed president of-- pro-choice america. let me start with you. what do you see happening in the states that is leading to this. >> you know we see an extreme agenda taking hold in some of these states that first of all doesn't find support across america. 70% of americans believe that roe should be upheld. and we're seeing out of touch politicians actually, not only rolling back women's freedom, but endangering women's lives as they put more and more arbitrary restrictions on women being able to access safe and legal abortion as is their constitutional right. >> brown: now i know charmaine yoest you have a different take on it. but why do you think it is happening now? why so much in the states now? >> well, because america's
abortion policy is actually out of touch with the american people. we have an abortion policy that is so radical that only china and north korea and canada have as radical a policy. >> brown: in what shall did -- how do you use that word radical what does that mean? >> most of the countries around the world start to limit abortion after 12 weeks. we can have abortion in america throughout all nine months of pregnancy. so what you are seeing is this rising tied of pro-life legislation is being responsive to the fact that most americans have a common sense approach to abortion. where they want to see parental consent, informed consent, clinic regulations. this horrible trial that you are seeing in philadelphia of kermit goz does nel with his house of horrors abortion clinic in philadelphia shows you exactly what happens when you have a completely unregulated abortion industry, allowed to have their own oversight over themselves. >> brown: that trial has gotten a lot of attention. >> i'm outraged. and i've been out in front saying i'm outrage since i took this position. i think it's critically important because it is
exactly the arbitrary restrictions, the lack of funding available for women, who need safe medical care that have driven these vulnerable women into clutches of him. i get up and go to work every single day to prevent women from victimized by the likes of kermit goznel. what we have is not the-- what he was doing was illegal in all 50 states, by federal law and it is people like the extremists who are putting roadblock and roadblock driving reputable doctors out of business and driving women to the kermit goz does nels. >> brown: looking at the states again, i want you to respond on the state issue, the trial aside, give me an example of what you see happening in the state that you find egregious. >> well, i mean where to start, right. south carolina. we're not talking about regulations that keep women safe. i agree, it's absolutely common sense, and mainstream that women should have
safety in their access to abortion care. what we are seeing in south car linea is that facilities that provide abortion are subject to arbitrary restrictions like how long its-- outside the clinic and so that as though that has anything to do with the care going on outside, these are back door, back alley efforts to drive clinics out of business, drive women to back alley providers. and harm them in the end, not keep them safe. >> brown: your response to a specific example like that. >> sure, absolutely this is a really disingenuous argument because naral and now, and planned parenthood have never met an abortion restriction they are willing to support. every time you see common sense solutions put on the table they come out and they-- . >> brown: but let me -- >> here is the thing, jeff, if i can make an analogy. this isn't a question of access. for example, we could have 20 more restaurants in america, we could have all the restaurants that you want, if you didn't have the department of public health to oversee and to come in and do inspections. but then would you have a
lot more food poisoning. and that is what you see in the abortion industry today. yes, we have back alley a, bos and they are run by big a kbortion in this country. >> brown: is the focus in the states precisely because of the dissatisfaction on your side with what is happening in the courts? >> well, this, what is happening out there in our culture today is a grass roots uprising. where you are seeing a response to a completely out of control abortion industry. just in the last six months we've seen two women die in clinics that were legal abortion clinics. and yet there is no oversight being taken care of. and so as a result you have them, you know, what other industry do you see that completely has oversight. for example in our country today we have veterinary clinics better regulated than abortion clinics. >> brown: are you citing public attitudes that support -- >> well, no, i'm citing a fact that abortion clinics or medical facilities that provide abortion should and are upheld to the same safety standards as other
medical facilities. what we are seeing, and there is where it is hard for me to hear charmaine with all due respect to use the word common sense. common sense means a commonly held val u by the community. 70% of americans believe that these are decisions that are best made by women, their families and their doctors. these are medical decisions. not by politicians or busy bodies. i respect charmaine's decision. i just don't think, like most americans, that she should be the one to make the lawsment these are medical procedures. that's decided by families and their doctors. >> can i just respond to this because i think this is a really important point. she is being disingenuous by describing her position. because you might get noticed for the record that you just have come out and said that she supports clinic regulation that are is bad on what we expect from other surgical centers. that's exactly the kind of legislation that just passed in alabama. and yet there was a firestorm in virginia, for example-- in virginia.
>> brown: you are also citing a 12 week, you were comparing to other countries, some of these states do go further than that. >> much further. >> so abortion clinics then ought to be regulated like other surgical centers. and that so then we agree. we believe that women should, that the facilities that support these procedures should be insurance they are clean, safe. what we had in philadelphia was not a problem of regulation t was a problem of enforcement. even the pennsylvania governor has said it was a problem of enforcement. but what we are seeing charmaine's group push for are arbitrary restrictions, the width of the hallway. the width of the hallway has no bearing on the medical care that a woman can get. the number of parking spaces, as they are pushing for-- . >> brown: you expect that this is going to end up back in the courts? >> absolutely. and we are excited about we are seeing in the courts. for example we're involved in a case in oklahoma right now where the, there is-- with legislation that required the abortion
industry to defense chemical abortion in the manner that it was approved by the fda. and yet the abortion industry, big abortion with whom ilyce is applied opposed even something as common sensible as that. >> we are already seeing a number of court cases and including ones that americans united for life, i think, support that go far beyond roe, far beyond women's ability to decide about abortion with their doctors. they are supporting rollbacks of contraception. they actually have model legislation on their web site that would limit ivf as we've seen in the personment amendment. this is a radical agenda and the anti-i thinks of common sense. americans believe women and their doctors can make these decisions, not meddling politicians. >> that is a misrepresentation of our opinion. we are working to make sure that there are common sense regulations that protect women from an industry that preys on their health. >> brown: all right, to be
continued, i promise. >> thank you, jeff. >> . >> brown: thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: you can hear more of that debate on-line, read an opinion piece from both charmaine yoest yoest and ilyce hough that is on our rundown. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day. president obama used a white house news conference to press congress for action on budget cuts, immigration and closing the prison at guantanamo. the president also said it's still unclear who was responsible for chemical weapons being used in syria. but he indicated he's considering military options in response. and three nato troops were killed in a bombing in afghanistan. >> ifill: online, we have a little unconventional advice for you on how to get and keep the right job. hari sreenivasan has more.
>> sreenivasan: headhunter nick corcodilos answered your job search questions in a hour-long live chat today. read his suggestions on how to get more out of networking and "moving up" in your own company. that's on our making sense page. it's not a bird or a plane; it's space debris. on lunch in the lab, a look at how space trash can menace satellites, spacecraft, and even earthlings. on art beat, comedians hit the social media stage for a week of one-liners and live-tweeting in the first ever comedyfest. and tonight on "frontline," americas response to terrorism, from 9/11 to the boston bombings. watch "top secret america" on your local pbs station. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. judy? >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll look at the women behind the c.i.a.'s hunt for osama bin laden. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> more than two years ago, the people of b.p. made a commitment to the gulf.
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